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18.10.2019 | Themenschwerpunkt | Sonderheft 4/2019 Open Access

Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie 4/2019

Care challenges in older general hospital patients

Impact of cognitive impairment and other patient-related factors

Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie > Sonderheft 4/2019
Ingrid Hendlmeier, Horst Bickel, Johannes Baltasar Heßler-Kaufmann, Martina Schäufele



Older general hospital patients, particularly those with cognitive impairment, frequently experience adverse events and other care complications during their stay. As these findings have so far been based on small and selected patient samples, the aim of the present study was to provide reliable data on a) the prevalence of adverse care issues (summarized under the term care challenges) in older general hospital patients and on b) associated patient-related risk factors (e.g. cognitive impairment).


A cross-sectional representative study comprising 1469 patients aged ≥65 years from 33 randomly selected general hospitals in southern Germany (GHoSt). Data collection included the use of different data sources, e.g. structured interviews with responsible nursing staff concerning care challenges and procedures for determining the patients’ cognitive status.


Care challenges were statistically significantly (p < 0.001) more often reported for patients with dementia and/or delirium (87.5%) and mild cognitive impairment (47.9%) compared to cognitively unimpaired patients (24.6%). Adjusted odds ratios suggested cognitive impairment, impaired activities of daily living, receiving long-term care and unplanned admission as significant patient-related risk factors for care challenges. Furthermore, the occurrence of such issues was associated with the application of physical restraints, support from relatives, prescription of psycholeptics and specialist consultations.


The findings suggest a strong impact of different degrees of cognitive impairment on challenges in care. The results might help to design appropriate training programs for hospital staff and other interventions to prevent or reduce critical situations.

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